The TSA: Are We Really Safer?

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed to ensure America’s freedom to travel.  Instead, they have made air travel the most difficult means of mass transit in the United States, at the same time failing to make air travel any more secure.”  And so begins another strong blog post by my colleague Steve Moore.

Steve is a retired FBI agent and someone who does not hold back when he believes in something or someone. (Just ask Amanda Knox, the American student who was found to be wrongly accused of murdering her British roommate while studying abroad in Italy.  Steve’s pro bono work on the case proved to be an important source of support for the Knox family.)

He goes on: “TSA has never, (and I invite them to prove me wrong), foiled a terrorist plot or stopped an attack on an airliner. Ever.”

I don’t think the TSA has taken Steve up on that offer yet.  They must still be looking.

We are international educators and students of life.  We travel.  A lot.  Unfortunately, we are subject to ridiculous attempts to out would be terrorists on planes.  How?  By practicing the fine art of fear.  Fear, you know, that other four letter word.  The one that governments use to facilitate the expansion of already massive agencies to look at our shoes, our belts, our change, our underwear and bras – and to remind us that fear is “necessary” in the 21st century.

Frankly, I’m more afraid of the food in the airport lounge killing me than I am of terrorists on airplanes. Perhaps TSA should shift their focus there and explore some of those food vendor contracts?

Steve Moore, retired FBI agent and Melibee Global consultant

Steve continues:

“The entire TSA paradigm is flawed. It requires an impossibility for it to succeed. For the TSA model to work, every single possible means of causing danger to an aircraft or its passengers must be eliminated. This is an impossibility. While passengers are being frisked and digitally strip-searched a few dozen yards away, cooks and dish washers at the local concourse “Chili’s” are using and cleaning butcher knives.”

Knives.  That can get on planes.  (Although having said that, in my humble opinion, too many passengers eating too much Chili’s could take down a plane – ok, well maybe just the seat.)

Steve’s argument continues with this in your face statement:

“Approximately 99% of what the average traveler carries on a plane would be considered contraband in a maximum security prison, due to the fact that it can easily be converted into a weapon. Toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks, pens, pencils, anything with wire (iPod headset), any metal object which can be sharpened, etc., etc. is a potential weapon. Carried to its logical end, TSA policy would have to require passengers to travel naked or handcuffed.”

Naked or handcuffed?  Ewww. Enough said.

Now, if you think Steve is really being theatrical with these statements, let me share this gem with you:

“Former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner dropped this bomb, ‘The ability of TSA screeners to stop prohibited items from being carried through the sterile areas of the airports fared no better than the performance of screeners prior to September 11, 2001.'”

We stand in line, sometimes for an hour, for no proven increase in safety.  We allow ourselves to be virtually strip searched and patted down.  We can’t take our $4 bottle of water past security.  And women, especially, will relate to this: TSA – you’ve taken countless tweezers from us.  COUNTLESS. Why?  So I won’t pluck the pilot’s brows in flight or practice my unscrewing skills on the bathroom or plane door?

I wonder if the TSA should drop the S…and simply change their names to T&A – after all, with those screening machines they’re assessing the threat of those more of that then any weapons.  (I can just hear it now…”We have a potentially lethal D cup in row 1 and a very risky A approaching in row 5 that could take down at least the seat on a plane.”)

If you’re frustrated by travel these days, you can read Steve’s entire post on he ridiculousness of the TSA at his website, G-MAN case file.  And feel free to check out my previous Melibee rant on the TSA here.

(Note:  Steve Moore is Melibee’s safety consultant.  He is available for consulting engagements as well as presentations/training on study abroad safety and life in the FBI.  You can learn more about him here.)